by Thabiti Anyabwile
From Jonathan Leeman’s The Church and the Surprising Offence of God’s Love: Reintroducing the Doctrines of Church Membership and Discipline (pp. 85-86):
Does God love humanity because of something intrinsically valuable or lovable in us? Logically, that would be impossible. He created us, and in his omniscience and sovereignty he wrote down every day of our lives before one of them came to be (Ps. 139:16). He is the source of everything we have, including every good gift that’s been given since creation (James 1:17). As such, there is literally nothing that God could behold with affection in us that he did not give us in the first place (cf. 1 Cor. 4:7). (Can we create anything that our omniscient God did not think of first?) God loves everyone because God beholds his own handiwork, image, and glory in everyone. God’s love is God-centered. When we as humans then love in a God-centered way, we love–as Augustine said–with respect to him, or for his sake. That means we burn to see his character and glory expressed everywhere–in ourselves, in our friends and family, in our enemies, in creation, in everything. From the vantage point of creation, God-centered love bears no judgment and draws no boundaries. It knows only pleasure and delights in the gift of itself.
On the other hand, God’s God-centered love bears a posture that opposes everything that opposes God, just as you and I will oppose anyone who opposes the human objects of our love such as a friend or spouse. I love my daughters, so I have an affection for their good. How then can I not oppose anyone or anything that intends for their ultimate ill? So it is with God’s love for God, and so it is for any true love of God that we have. Loving him means having affection for his glory and honor. A complex posture is therefore required. God loves all sinners insofar as they reflect his glory; he opposes them insofar as they don’t. What that means is that a God-centered love must discriminate; it must have preferences; it must make judgments, and it must do so in light of sin and the fall. It is not universal, because it does not love anything that opposes God. God-centered love does not love sin. What is sin? Sin is anything that opposes God and intends God’s ultimate ill. Therefore, God’s God-centered love will discriminate between that which is sin and that which is not; between those who belong to sin and those who do not; between those who love him and seek his glory and those who do not.
God’s love is for everything that glorifies God. God’s love is against everything that opposes His glory. Both His being for and His being against are love because both make much of the supreme Object of all possible exultation: God himself.
If we love this way, then we do everything to posture ourselves to magnify God’s glory in Christ. As Leeman puts it, “we burn to see his character and glory expressed everywhere–in ourselves, in our friends and family, in our enemies, in creation, in everything.”
Are you burning to see God’s character and glory expressed everywhere?
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